I did a lot during May and, looking back, it seems to have lasted a really long time. I started with a trip to Stratford to see Tom, which included a surprise boat ride. There were day trips to York and Blackpool, as well as a couple of hard days hiking, walking the Pennine Way between Malham and Ponden. I made a trip to Scarborough for Chillercon, which was inspiring, although travelling back to Halifax on the Sunday was complicated.
I also made my first trip to Brighton since moving, where I saw Rosy’s new show, Musclebound. She’s talked about this over the last few years and it was felt both strange and exciting to finally see the show. It’s an excellent piece, and I can’t wait to see what people make of it on tour. It was lovely to catch up with lots of friends but, even so, it was returning to Halifax that felt like coming home.
May has also been the most sociable month I’ve had since the pandemic started. I went on a couple of Ramblers’ walks, and attended Tod Writers and the UFO meet. I also finally made it to Halifax’s spoken word night Turn the Page, which was a lovely, warm community. The Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic has opened in Todmorden and I visited for a talk on the UFO meet. I also had my friend Sophie come to stay. All this social activity was tiring, but it feels like I’m settling up here.
I’ve done more walking this month, which I suspect is down to the longer days. I walked a total of 380,559 steps, which makes a daily average of 12,276. My longest daily total was on the Pennine Way from Malham. Having been so busy, I managed only one fast day, but managed to lose about half a pound through sensible portion control.
I’m feeling a lot happier with my writing. Having hemmed and hawed, I’ve established a proper flow to my work. This involves new stories being submitted, as well as catching up with my backlog, and I sent out 18 pieces this month – more than ever before. Sending out the stories felt very positive. I wrote two new pieces of flash fiction – one about crypto-currencies and the other about a holiday, and I’m delighted that the latter was accepted by Liar’s League. I also have 2-3 booklets close to finishing, so something new will be published in June or July.
I read a lot in May. I’m not sure how I ended up finishing ten books, but it was a good mix. Among the highlights were:
- Andrew McCloy’s The Pennine Way was a fascinating overview of the trail and its history.
- Amy Liptrot’s The Instant was vivid and enjoyable, but could have been longer.
- Plain Bad Heroines by emily m. danford was a compelling character-based gothic.
- Bad Actors by Mick Herron was a fun, easy read but with less of the spark of the earlier books in the series.
- Despite his reputation, I enjoyed Johann Hari’s new book Stolen Focus. Although it could have done with more fact-checking (at one point it mentioned an “85-page newspaper”), but its discussion of social media’s effects was striking.
- A Libertarian Walks into a Bear was recommended by Tom. What happens when a group of small-government libertarians take over a town with a bear problem?
- I finished William S. Burroughs vs the Qu’ran by Michael Muhammed Knight the same day that I learned Hakim Bey had died. Knight’s book is a transgressive and likely-blasphemous look at his muslim faith, which starts as a biography of Bey. Knight abandons the problem because he cannot find a way around Bey’s disturbing and problematic views. Knight’s writing is excellent about his membership of the Five-Percent Nation. It’s a messy, difficult book, and one of the most provocative things I’ve read in years.
- Chums by Simon Kuper was heralded by some good newspaper excerpts. The book looks at how 80s Oxford has influenced the current state of the UK. Kuper blames the ascendancy of a shallow, bombastic Oxford-style for the current problems in the country.
I’ve not watched many TV shows or films. Pentaverate looked promising, but ended up being crude rather than witty. Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness was the usual Marvel-by-numbers: entertaining but not worth thinking too much about. I started watching Obi Wan Kenobi until it was obvious it wasn’t going to be as good as The Mandalorian (the only good Star Wars spin-off since 1999). The best thing I saw was South Korean mediaeval zombie thriller, The Kingdom; both epic and creepy, I’m taking a short break before Season Two rather than wolfing it down in one go. I’m now rewatching Dispatches frome Elsewhere which I started earlier this year and didn’t finish. I think I’m enjoying the early episodes even more a second time. The acting is phenomenal and delivers a script which could easily have felt hokey.
That state of the country has been depressing recently. Johnson seems to have evaded any censure from the Sue Gray report, while Starmer finds himself tangled up in the blowback from it. It’s a pretty good metaphor for parliamentary politics in general: Starmer makes good, clear points in PMQs, only for Johnson to sweep them aside. It’s depressing that this is the best we can do as a country. I’ve been grateful for the light relief of the Vardy/Rooney trial.
Looking back, May was quite a month. Socialising so much has made me nervous about infection, but I seem to have been OK. June looks like it could be at least as much fun.If you want to follow what I'm up to, sign up to my mailing list